BLOG: Equality over equity

Today, thousands of women affected by the changes to the equalisation of the state pension age are expected to march through London in protest of the changes.

The issue, described by former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann as a “poisoned chalice”, has gained attention through the continued effort of groups like the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) and the Backto60 campaigns.

I first wrote about Waspi over two years ago, when the group was just starting to gain media attention but was coming under criticism for its ambiguity surrounding its aims. Since then, the group has gained much political attention; an All Party Parliamentary Group was set up on the matter, and a Private Member’s Bill was proposed with suggestions on how to compensate the women affected.

Labour has taken women’s state pension age inequality under its wing, a popular move considering the staunch position of the Conservatives, which refuses to budge on its position; Pensions Minister Guy Opperman’s suggestion that women take up apprenticeships was rightly met with anger.

I say rightly because the suggestion was completely missing the point that these women’s life plans have been overthrown by a policy that they were never told about. Previously I’ve criticised the campaign groups for their lack of clarity, but I have always agreed with how unjust the process of equalising the state pension age has been.

There are of course many other women who are not involved with these groups who are affected, and are just as angry. My mother, Jill Tuck, for example agrees with the need to equalise the state pension age, but thinks the way the government has gone about it has been terrible.

“The worse bit is how they accelerated it, that’s where it’s gone wrong, because people that are only around 18 months older than me will get their pension three years before I get mine,” she says, adding that if she had known longer she could have made plans for the extra years.

She’s referring to the second change in 2011 that sped up the 1995 timetable, and widens the gap between women, who are born quite close to each other, receiving their state pension. Her friend who is currently 64, the same age as my mother, but turns 65 next week, has been receiving her pension since June, my mother however, has to wait almost two more years.

The harsh staggering of the timetable is what she really struggles to come to terms with. Not only that, she points out that she and other women are missing out on the benefits that come with the state pension, such as a bus pass, a free flu jab, and the winter fuel allowance.

My mother counts herself fortunate because she is supported by my father, who already receives his state and work pension, but, she says if the situation we’re different, she could not support herself.

Her story is one many millions of the human cost of a policy change that was designed to bring equality between the sexes but seems to have forgotten to take into account equity.

There are many women who are now living in poverty because of this policy change that need help from the state, but are left on their own to get by. On what is also World Mental Health day, it’s also important to highlight the effect this has had on some of the women’s mental health too.

Each and every woman affected will have their own story, what we need now is the government to listen.

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